Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wii own the night

I'm nearly finished with my first ballband dishcloth, but I should be done with it already. The culprit impeding my knitting: the Nintendo Wii.

The console has been notoriously difficult to find, so when I recently noticed its availability, I decided to purchase one. I've enjoyed playing the Wii, and with two of my three brothers having them, I thought it might be fun to challenge them online from time to time.

I haven't had a video game system in my home since my senior year of college when a roommate owned a Sega Genesis. My family had a ColecoVision when I was a kid, and one of my brothers bought a Nintendo Entertainment System and then a Sega. We even had a few games (on diskettes!) for an old PC, and I recall some cheap-o version of Pong that we'd play on the small black-and-white secondary TV in the family room. I was never a hardcore gamer, which is probably why I haven't had a system for ages, but I liked playing.

I must say that I'm having a lot of fun with the Wii. I've played Mario Kart against one of my brothers twice this week and scorched him in every race. In the past he beat me regularly, so it's amusing me to no end how he's searching for excuses why I keep coming out on top.

Will the Wii cut into my knitting time? Probably a little, at least at first, but I get different pleasures from each activity, so I don't see it making an appreciable impact on my knitting. The ballband dishcloth has been a small confidence booster in regard to trying new techniques, so the needles won't be getting put aside in favor of the Wii remote.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Thirty second update

This is the secret knitter with a thirty second update on my projects.

The blue and orange ballband dishcloth is halfway completed. I'm amazed at how complicated it looks and how easy it's been to make. Imagine that. Learning something new is a good thing.

I'm dead tired from my post-festival catching up, so that's all for today. This has been the secret knitter with a thirty second update. Stay tuned for more substance at some undetermined future time.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Random lessons

Things learned and relearned in recent days

-On the rare day that I'm sick, perhaps taking a day off work wouldn't be the worst idea in the world.

It wasn't until I felt better that I realized how sick I was for a few days last week. Admittedly, I wanted to go in because I was going to be out at the end of the week, but I can't help but believe that I did myself no favors in dragging myself there.

-There are no worse advertisements than those on AM radio.

It's not just the crap that gets advertised but also the form of the sales pitches. Whether it's mind-numbing repetition or inane "conversation" about the product, these ads are as annoying as they get.

-Don't talk politics.

At the beginning of film festival days there is a lot of time spent waiting in line to enter the theater. Inevitably conversations are struck up because everyone is bored. I was speaking with a woman behind me in line, and the subject somehow got around to the Presidential election. We shared support for a candidate and many similar views regarding the nonsense that is distracting from the important stuff. After fifteen minutes or so, the guy in front of us turned around and started blasting this candidate and people like us who would support such a person. I was really taken aback by this hostility.

I make it a point not to bring up politics because anymore it's such a contentious and futile exercise that it isn't worth the grief. (In this instance, the aggrieved party wasn't even in the conversation.) Plus, I don't feel smart or aggressive enough to parry those whose verbal thrusts are all party line talking points laced with venom. I can't help but believe that the inability for those who disagree to listen to the other side is a large part of the problem with the political dialogue in this country.

-Driving while tired is one of the worst feelings in the world.

I had around three hours of driving ahead of me yesterday when I started feeling really tired. I knew I needed to pull over and take a break, if just to regain more focus, although I had to wait several minutes until I could find a place to stop. In the meantime, that struggle to keep my eyes open and drive the car was really unpleasant. A rest stop revived me a little, and a coffee a few exits later artificially boosted me for the remainder. Still, those moments when I could feel myself flagging were no fun at all.

-There's no place like home.

I'm realizing that this list is heavy on "worsts", so I'll end on a high note. I enjoyed my time away and was treated generously by some people I've come to know at the festival over the years. Nevertheless, I'm happy to be home again. Everyone needs a base, a place to feel comfortable and to recharge. It's time for me to do that once again.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

An Illini yarn

Now that I'm home and not writing when on the verge of collapsing into bed, I can go back to my Champaign-Urbana yarn store adventures on Wednesday.

Via Ravelry I learned that a new yarn shop opened in town since I was last here, so I was determined to check out Klose Knit in Urbana. It took a couple phone calls to find exactly where it is--figuring out where Champaign ends and Urbana begins is kind of unclear to this visitor--but the helpful employee directed me there.

As you know, it's uncommon for me to buy yarn without having projects in mind for it. I intended to buy some cotton for a ballband dishcloth in University of Illinois colors, but they didn't really have the right orange or blue. The employee told me that there wasn't any sense in using the nicer stuff for something like a dishcloth anyway. Makes sense. I had a nice chat with the employee and enjoyed seeing the shop but left empty-handed.

At this point it was time to hit the local chain stores to find orange and blue Sugar'n Cream for the dishcloth. I should mention that the night before coming here I stopped at a Jo-Ann's in Columbus, which had the orange but not the blue, and a Hobby Lobby, which carried blue but no orange. I didn't buy from either because I figured I'd have no problems finding Illinois colors in the university's backyard.

A Jo-Ann's was near my hotel, so I assumed it would handle my Sugar'n Cream dishcloth needs. Not quite. They had orange but no blue. Rather than make the same mistake twice, I bought the cotton and set out for Michael's. They also had orange but not the dark blue I needed. Who would have thought that color would prove to be harder to find? The afternoon was quickly getting away from me, so I decided to peruse the yarn aisles at the nearby Meijer. Thankfully they had the blue I needed--but not the already purchased orange--which meant I didn't have to hit up a Hancock Fabrics, assuming it's still open, or the LYS I visited last year.

Lesson learned: buy it where you find it rather than hoping to make a single location purchase.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Road photos

Knowing full well that I'd have no time to write tonight, I snapped some pictures around town today. I'll get home Sunday evening, so something approaching normal content ought to return then.

Apparently this is the best road in the area for ridin' the storm out.

I suppose Champaign-Urbana is no different from any college towns with large schools. Yes, the fire hydrants are a U of I orange.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Out of time

Quick hits before getting much-needed sleep after a full day at the film festival:

I started knitting a ballband dishcloth in the University of Illinois colors today. It's looking really sharp, if I do say so myself. Since working with two balls of cotton can take up some space, I'm limiting myself to how much I knit at my seat so that it isn't a hassle for me or anyone else. If the weather is nice in the morning, I hope to knit outside while waiting in line to enter the theater for the day.

I've been largely absent on Ravelry over the last month or two because of being busy with everything else, but I did find a thread about this film festival on there. Today I spotted a fellow Raveler and dropped by to say hello. She'd said where she usually sits and what her husband looks like, so it wasn't too hard to find the person who met these criteria. And the knitting (or crocheting) helped too.

Saturday is going to be even more brutal in regard to when I crawl back to the hotel to get a few winks for the night, so I fear this is the best I'll be able to muster here tomorrow too.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Another quick one

Knitting and blogging time are in short supply, so for today's entry I present two photos taken in Champaign-Urbana. I can't tell where one city ends and the other begins, thus the hyphen.

As usual, updates pertaining to the reason why I'm here are on my other site. Since I'm planning to skip the panel discussion in the morning, perhaps I can get a head start on a legitimate entry over here during some of that time.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A quick report

If you are so inclined, I have a report from my first day at the film festival at my other site. Since it is 2:19 a.m. here in Illinois and I'm functioning as though it's 3:19 back home, I really need to keep this brief.

For lack of anything better, here's a picture of the Episcopal Church next to the theater where the event is being held.

I visited a relatively new local yarn shop in Urbana, as well as almost every other fiber-selling place in the area, in search of the desired cotton colors for a ballband dishcloth. Those tales and photos will have to wait until a day when I'm not depriving myself of necessary sleep.

For what it's worth, I'm no longer achy or feeling as generally miserable as I did the last few days, so I'm thankful to have semi-recovered in time for the festival. It also made the 4.5-5 hour drive much more tolerable. Gas prices are miserable, but I'm glad to be getting around 35 miles per gallon on the highway.

And with that said, it's time for me to hit the sack...

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ready or not

Ready or not, here I go. Bright and early Wednesday morning I depart for the Land of Lincoln and a film festival I've been attending since 2001. I could be in better shape--I looked like hell today and felt only a smidgen better--but with the event's host doing everything in his power to attend, I suppose I can suck up whatever it is that's been wiping me out the past few days.

The plan is to arrive far enough in advance to get settled at the hotel and visit at least one of the local yarn shops. Unless I overlooked it last year, there appears to be a new store. Although I have a ballband dishcloth in progress, I'll be on the lookout for cotton in the colors of the local university so I can begin knitting a new one during the festival.

And now to start packing...


Monday, April 21, 2008

A small victory

OK, so I have a tendency to overreact or make things more difficult when there's something I don't understand. Multiply that by last night's pounding headache from whatever illness I have. My stupidity and lack of patience were in full bloom.

I feel pretty lousy still today, but thanks to Amanda I got an explanation that got me over the hump. Where I was tripping myself up was in not comprehending how putting the yarn in one place or another while slipping a stitch made a difference.

It's the simplest things, which often don't have explanations, that seem to confuse me. The more complicated stuff is usually laid out in painstaking detail whereas yarn forward and yarn back didn't require any more information. Now that it clicks, of course I see that this is about as easy as it gets.

It helped to have a finished ballband dishcloth on hand. I didn't understand how it was made, but I could examine it to try and figure out the idea at work. Until now I haven't worked with two colors at the same time--I admit that it intimidates me--so this small victory feels like a gigantic step forward.

I didn't choose the colors to match the pattern in the book; they're what I had on hand when I decided to tackle this challenge. I look forward to picking up yarns in other color combinations and, umm, impressing myself. I think I've found the right project for knitting while at the film festival in the coming days.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

The ballband dishcloth

Sitting in the wind yesterday must have made me sick because I don't know how else I would have picked up a sore throat and started feeling lousy otherwise. My illness is your gain in that it means I'm going to write about knitting, something that has been infrequent lately.

I didn't want to work on the blanket, so I thought a dishcloth might be the answer. I decided that I would try Mason-Dixon Knitting's ballband dishcloth. I know, everyone has made one, but I haven't. And you know why? Because I can't figure out how they're knitted.

My previous course of attack has been simply not to bother trying. In other words, when in doubt, don't. But I'm not feeling well, so I can't feel any worse if I don't figure it out, right?

OK, I can't figure it out. Or I can't figure out what to do now that I've made it to row 4. Specifically, I don't understand this yarn forward and yarn back business. I've checked Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book and googled the terms, but I've yet to find a satisfactory explanation of what exactly I'm doing here. (I found something for yarn forward. Is this what I want to do?)

The other question is, am I supposed to rejoin color A regularly, or does it get carried somehow when I get to row 7? In row 3 I'm supposed to join color B and knit with it. When I get to row 7 it says nothing about rejoining, but I'm not sure how color A got there. The thought of lots of ends to weave in makes me feel sicker.

Is that clear? I'm sure enough of you have either made the pattern or have the book to explain what isn't exactly clicking in my brain. Keep in mind that I had to start over twice, once because I didn't leave enough of a tail and the second time because I realized I should have been starting with the contrasting color instead of the primary. What I'm saying is that if you think you're spelling it out too much, you're not. Trust me. Stupid mode is back and thriving.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Take me out to the ballgame

Although there was the threat of rain, I wanted to spend the day outside and get a look at the Reds' Dominican pitching phenom, so I hopped in the car this morning and drove to Cincinnati to take in an afternoon baseball game.

Unfortunately the forecast led to the tarp staying on the field longer than usual. My perch in right field would normally be an ideal place to grab a batting practice home run blast, but BP was canceled today. Still, it was nice to sit under the shifting sky, which alternated between sunny and overcast, and read the newspaper. A few fat drops fell, causing some to scurry for cover, but other than a little spitting prior to the game, the rain held off.

Of the major American sports, baseball is the most tradition bound. I like that the game itself has remained mostly unchanged for years, but I beg the game operations people to break themselves of the habit of playing that infernal Rednex song at some point between innings. That can go on the scrap heap along with the fan in the stands--it's always a guy--wearing a 69 jersey. Dude, it's not as clever as you think it is. I'd abide both, though, if concessions weren't priced at 200% what you'd pay anywhere else.

I can take or leave the wave, but I got a kick out of the guys in my section who were trying to rouse the crowd to get it started. Those in attendance were relatively sedate, which may have something to do with the fact that the Reds haven't been able to buy a hit in the last eight games. These guys were working hard to rally the fans. I appreciated the effort. You could feel people turn on the guy a section over who yelled at them to sit down and shut up.

The game was kind of a snoozer, although it got more interesting when a Reds player smacked a two-run homer to tie it in the seventh. In the eighth I saw something I don't know that I've ever seen happen. I hadn't witnessed it in person, and I can't remember seeing it on TV. The Reds catcher got ejected for arguing balls and strikes with the umpire. You'll see guys get tossed for yapping from the dugout, but I can't recall ever seeing a position player get removed while on defense. (To top that, a Reds pinch hitter got thrown out in the bottom of the inning for questioning a called third strike.) Cincinnati lost in ten innings, but it was a fine day to be at the ballpark regardless.

Last fall I posted pictures of the Ohio River from the Kentucky side, so here's the view near the banks on the Ohio side. The river isn't quite close enough for a player to hit a home run out of the stadium and into the water, but it's not much farther than that.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Well, it's something

Nope, I didn't feel any earthquake here. Maybe I would have if I'd been awake.

It's been a fallow week for writing topics. For lack of anything better, I'm tacking up a couple photos I took in Grandview today. I really like seeing the blossoming trees. It'll be a pity when they have all turned green. The whites and reds I see on a lot of trees in the area make for such a nice difference.

I plopped myself down at this sidewalk table to work on a crossword puzzle while waiting for a movie to start at the nearby theater. Honestly, it was a shame to be inside at all today. Between two theaters I took in three films, one outright stinker and two I thought were OK, but I also got my time outside with a long morning walk and during this leisurely moment. But hey, I didn't have to pay for the films--ah, press status--and I even got a free ice cream cone because the register wouldn't open at the shop a couple doors down from where I was sitting in this picture.

Things ought to even out soon. I hit the road again next week, and that always seems to get the creativity going. At worst I'll have celebrity encounters or near-encounters to dish about.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

On screen and in print

The poster for the film Young @ Heart, a documentary about senior citizens singing rock songs, features an old pair of hands knitting an electric guitar. Don't let that fool you; there's no knitting in the movie.

As for the film itself, it's a crowd-pleaser, although I wish it were stronger visually. (If the idea was to light it to make the old-timers look worse, consider it a success.) It takes place in Northampton, Massachusetts, which I visited briefly in 2001. I did what I always do when I see something that's been shot where I've been; I looked for places I recognized, namely the Iron Horse Music Hall. Didn't see anything I recognized.

Remember the blurb I wrote that I mentioned was going to appear in print? It was published in Nashville Scene today. It's available online here, but you'll need to scroll down a bit to find it. I suppose you know what name to look for to identify which is mine.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

All the old showstoppers

I'm at a loss for what to write about. Goings-on aren't all that eventful. I'm knitting a blanket, but it's the knit stitch repeated ad infinitum, meaning there's nothing worth mentioning there. In lieu of looking for a scrap of interesting activity, let's take a peek at what I'm watching, listening to, and reading.

At the movies: I've been seeing a lot of dogs lately (cases in point: the laugh-worthy 88 Minutes and Prom Night). The best film I've watched in the past couple weeks is Leatherheads. It's far from perfect, but I'm a sucker for old screwball movies. George Clooney has made a solid attempt at replicating the snappy humor and good, old-fashioned entertainment.

On TV: It seems like television has been stagnant since the writer's strike, but new episodes are finally returning. Last week's The Office, with its acidic sitcom version of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, was amazing. The fans vs. favorites edition of Survivor has provided some fresh twists to a show that should be stale by now. American Idol has been underwhelming this season, but I get a few good laughs from their hokey Ford music videos each week. But enough messing around...give me new Lost episodes!

In music: I haven't decided where Accelerate fits into the R.E.M. discography, but it's a blessed break from the sameness that made the last two albums generally forgettable. Gnarls Barkley's The Odd Couple can be pretty dark lyrically, but I'm fond of its vintage soul mixed with the contemporary. With Asking for Flowers Kathleen Edwards may deliver her most consistent album to date. The Tom Petty vibe on it doesn't hurt. I'm still digesting Hold On Now, Youngster... by Los Campesinos!

Reading, or not reading but have bought and really would like to find the time to read: I loved Jhumpa Lahiri's first two books, so I ought to dive into her new one, Unaccustomed Earth, and let it grab me instead of waiting to find the time.

I enjoyed the first two books Mary Doria Russell wrote, but I never got around to her venture into historical fiction. Maybe it's because the mix of science fiction and theology in The Sparrow and Children of God exerted such mental workouts that I kept waiting to pick up A Thread of Grace, her third novel, when I felt more up to it. (Or it could be that I wasn't jumping at the thought of reading something set during World War II. Call it fatigue from the war movies in recent years.) At least it's in hand now thanks to a deep discount on the hardcover version.

What are you watching/listening to/reading?

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Although I filed my federal and state returns in January, I got to enjoy the anxieties of Tax Day by procrastinating and forgetting (and forgetting some more) to complete my city taxes. The night before the day of reckoning I dug through old mail pushed aside long ago until I found my June pay stub. And then I noticed a funny thing on it and the W-2. City taxes had been withheld for both my city of employment and city of residence.

All this time I'd been trying to wrap my brain around an amazingly confusing city form for which I thought I'd need to apply all sorts of formulas to determine how much I owed for a partial year. My employer had been withholding the additional percentage for my new place of residence all along.

With the complication removed, I whipped through my old city's form and my new city's form. This is what I'd been postponing for almost three months? Since everything had been properly withheld, I'm not sure that I would have needed to file in the new city, except that I had made a little money freelancing. This morning I cheerfully wrote a check for six dollars to the city treasurer--I had expected I would owe a couple hundred dollars if the tax wasn't getting taken out of my monthly paycheck--and quickly bought a stamp from the post office's vending machine while feeling a bit superior to the poor souls already waiting in the long morning line.

But I would be taxed another way today. Dealing with students and their problems--interpersonal issues , worries about post-college futures, basic instructional needs--can be draining, and this day presented plenty of the energy-sucking variety. No complaints from me, just this statement of being tired and desiring to knit my blanket. And so I shall.


Monday, April 14, 2008

It's a gas, gas, gas

It's no secret that gas prices continue to rise and show no signs of ever returning to pre-Hurricane Katrina levels, which is when they took a big jump up and never really came down. The cost of a gallon did its usual twenty cent weekly climb today and sits around $3.45 here. Talk of $4/gallon gas has been rumored, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it hit that price in time for Memorial Day travel or no later than this summer.

If gas prices haven't reached the tipping point where people start making drastic changes in their driving, I can't imagine it is too far off. My co-worker mentioned some differences in how much he drives now, and I know I'm doing many of the same things.

On the weekends I probably don't venture much farther than five miles from my apartment. If there's something special I have planned or want to do, I'll still go, but most of the time I stay nearby. I'm lucky that most of the places I need or like to visit are close enough that I don't have to go far. If possible I try to be efficient and hit all of the places in one trip.

I've made a big change in attending advance movie screenings. Ordinarily it wouldn't be unusual to go to four of them in a week, trips that really start to add up. I've been skipping the overwhelming majority of them in recent months--a decision that wasn't initially based on gas consumption--and catching up on the weekends. I have a theater within a couple miles from where I live. Their weekend ticket prices before noon make it cheaper to pay to see the films when they open than to spend the equivalent or a little more in gas to go to them for free ahead of time.

Until last Memorial Day weekend I lived less than a mile from where I work. I'm still not that far--not quite eleven miles--but in racking up more miles with the commute, I've become more conscious of how much I drive. With the changes mentioned above, I probably drive about the same amount as I did when I could walk to the office. On average I can go a week to a week and a half between trips to the pump.

I don't mention this to show off or to make a case for higher prices being a good thing. (Those who make the argument for inflating gas prices so better alternatives will come to market irritate me to no end. These prices are having significant impact on people's lives, and it'll get a lot worse for many if gas costs continue going up.) I'm not sure what the point is other than this was something on my mind today.

Perhaps it's because I've been wavering on whether to go to a Reds game this weekend if I can't find someone else to share the travel costs. I will spend more to get there and back than to buy a ticket and pay to park. Contrary to everything else I've written, if I want to go, I'll do it, but it doesn't mean I'll be happy about what it takes to fill my car's tank. It does mean that I'm less likely to go as frequently as I would. Don't think this is limited to frivolous things like ballgames. (Please ignore the fact that I'm driving to Illinois for a film festival next week.)

How are gas prices changing the way you drive and travel?


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Freedom through limitation

Last week the opportunity came up to get paid for writing a blurb about a movie for (I think) a Tennessee alt-weekly. (As ridiculous as it sounds, I'm not entirely sure where my work will appear.) The little extra money is nice, but getting published means more to me.

Like it or not, what I do on TV and online is not necessarily viewed as legitimate, so some semblance of writing for a "real" outlet, no matter how little I typed or how prominent it is, provides a nice ego boost. Seeing my name in print--well, knowing that it's in print somewhere--and receiving a small payment is a kind of validation. As I near the taping of our three hundredth show, it might sound silly for three printed sentences to matter but they do.

And yep, that's all it is: three sentences. I was asked to write 100 words and came in just a few over. The limitation, though, was enormously freeing. I tend not to write as much as I could because there simply aren't enough hours in the day to pound out all the text that's half-formed in my brain. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of reviews that died because I couldn't devote the amount of time I felt was necessary to do them properly. I am my own editor and publisher, so I don't really have any limits on length. Unlimited space is actually a lot more paralyzing than being given a set amount.

This assignment didn't give me the room to say everything I would have liked to have said, but it gives me the concept for how to manage everything that otherwise currently goes unwritten by me. The question becomes if it is better to write something without every observation I'd like to make or nothing at all. Too often I've sacrificed the former for the latter. If I can hold myself to an artificial limit, I'm free to let go once it's been reached. At the very least it's a much-needed guideline for festival coverage.

It's no different for things in daily life. Rather than trying to do everything at once, something usually not feasible, it becomes a matter of taking it a step at a time within the limitations upon us. Losing weight isn't about shedding however much is set for the end goal but eating well from meal to meal and exercising from one day to the next. Getting a project done at the office isn't accomplished in one fell swoop but piece by piece. It's about making things manageable. Backwards as it sounds, limitations give us freedom to do what we need to do. It's when there isn't any structure or creative friction that, at least for me, I end up being most limited.


Saturday, April 12, 2008


Notes from a cold, lazy day...

I have restarted knitting the blanket that was put aside when I became fixated on making myself a scarf. I'm getting toward the end of the second skein. Only three more to go! (That's a sarcastic exclamation point. I can't believe how much remains in spite of all the time I've put into it.)

Today I received a thank-you note from the recipients of a baby hat I made. Neither parent knew that I knit, but she was excited to learn the secret, going so far to say that she's jealous I know how to do it. That being said, she identified "it" as sewing and crochet, but I can't fault her for making the mistake because I probably wouldn't have known the difference until I took up the needles. Here's a better picture of the hat.

To answer a question from the comments the other day, my mom has not knit anything since she made that first scarf. I thought she might have kept at it when my dad went in for surgery in late February, but between that and keeping up with work, it sounds as though she hasn't had the time. During that time my aunt visited and showed her the English method--I taught her the continental method--so she's good to go either way if or when she chooses to pick up the needles again.

I never know what posts will generate comments, but with the explosion on my entry about diet and exercise, I almost feel like I ought to write semi-regularly about it to trade ideas and recipes.

The weather here has no rhyme or reason. Since Sunday I'd been enjoying warmer temperatures and keeping open the sliding glass door on the west side of my living room. Today I had to turn the furnace on again. And there's talk of snow.

Tickets for Radiohead's August concert in Cleveland went on sale this morning. A Ticketmaster outlet is very close to where I live, so I thought I'd see if there was a line to determine if I felt my best bet to get a pavilion seat was at the store or online from home. (I decided that it would be pavilion or nothing for me. A lawn seat is too far away and too much trouble to make it worthwhile.) I think I can safely pronounce that the days of waiting in line for tickets are basically over.

I know the show isn't here, but I was the only person in line when tickets became available. Keep in mind that my ticket is in the pit--the general admission area in front of the first row--and online auctions for the same ticket are starting at $300-400. (Even with the ridiculous service fees, these are mark-ups of six to eight times face value.) This will be one of the summer's hottest tours, so it isn't like other people in the area aren't interested. Now why didn't I have the brains to buy an extra to scalp?!

I have mixed feelings about where my ticket puts me. How exciting to be so close! I'm less enthused at the prospect of being packed like sardines and not having a seat, but there's further motivation to get in shape.

Online purchasing is the great equalizer, or so it would seem, when it comes to buying tickets. There's no longer a need for camping out or the in-store line and lottery to set an order. The store employee said that they are going through the internet like everyone else, although they have a line for accessing the system that isn't available to the public. Does it make a difference? I bet it does. When I got home I checked for what kind of ticket I could pull up. The system seemed to take longer to get through and find a ticket, although I would have still snagged one, just not as close.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Adventures in solitude

With a busy work week coming to its conclusion, I felt like staying home rather than heading out, but in what's turned out to be a year for good rock shows, tonight meant I was off to see The New Pornographers and Okkervil River.

The concert was at the Newport Music Hall, which accommodates four times the number of people where I've seen every other show this year. If it didn't sell out, it was going to come close to it, meaning that it was going to be a sticky night. I haven't been there for almost two years--last time: Beth Orton--but I've been there enough to know that this time of year with a big crowd guarantees it will be muggy inside.

So, the challenge when going alone is to figure out what to do while standing there waiting up to an hour for the concert to start and sweating. I've found that the combination of clearing one's mind, trying to make oneself invisible, and eavesdropping works about as well as anything. Usually the conversations one overhears are banal, but you just hope that they won't carry over when the music starts. (Unfortunately, this isn't always the case.)

Okkervil River opened with an hour-long set. I've heard of them but hadn't heard anything by them before tonight. I could tell that the six-piece band deserved their positive reputation and liked what I heard, but with no familiarity with these songs, their set obviously didn't mean as much to me. You might not think that having a relationship with music makes it "better", but my sense is that I would have been more impressed if I knew a note they played.

A half hour after Okkervil River's set wrapped, seven members of The New Pornographers took the stage, including Neko Case. She doesn't always tour with them. As a fan of her solo work, I was thrilled that she was making an unexpected appearance.

I've not been as crazy about the group's most recent album Challengers in comparison to their three others, but the live setting improved the songs from it. Perhaps having the slower tunes sprinkled among the up-tempo catalog songs made them stand out better. "Adventures in Solitude" and "Mutiny, I Promise You" ranked among the night's best along with old favorites "Mass Romantic" and "The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism". Their ELO cover was great fun, and a seemingly impromptu take on Trio's "Da Da Da", which most probably know from the Volkswagen commercial, was weirdly pleasant.

Concert venues seem to have abandoned all hope of putting the pinch on photography. Signs on the entrance said no cameras were allowed, but no one was giving the shakedown or stopping pictures from being snapped. Honestly, there's really not much they can do about it with the prevalence of cameras in cell phones, and plenty of digital cameras were held up throughout the show.

I grabbed a couple quick photos and left it at that. It was the rare moment when I didn't have someone blocking my view as the headliners played. Hey dude, it's great that you're having a good time, but your side to side head shaking and larger than anyone else's personal space means I can't see much of anything but the back of your cranium. Being six feet tall, my height usually doesn't present a problem, although I have an uncanny ability for going to concerts and eventually getting behind people taller than me. Moving wasn't an option as everyone was practically stacked shoulder to shoulder.

But why moan about this when I received a good night of live music? Well, because I want to...and I was getting angrier about it the longer it went on.

Anyway, I know it seems like I've been going to concerts almost every week, but I'm all out of tickets. I'm going to try to land one for Radiohead when they go on sale in the morning. Otherwise I now return to quieter nights.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Do you want to know a secret?

Yesterday I noticed a student sitting in the lounge area knitting a sock. It's the first time I've seen any students knit on campus, although I suppose the sample size isn't the largest since until our offices moved to more spacious digs last summer, I was holed up in the deepest corner in the building's basement.

I tried not to look too much, but I was curious to see what she was doing. It didn't appear that she had much done on dpns, but I didn't get a great view, just enough to figure out what she was making and using.

A faculty member in my department passed by and talked to the student for awhile about knitting. All of a sudden I felt extremely compelled to blurt out to this professor that oh, by the way, I knit too, blah blah blah blah blah.

Of course I bit my tongue and kept quiet about it all. When the moment passed, the urgency of such a confession disappeared too. Perhaps one day I'll share my knitting secret with my colleague, although I still think I'd want assurance that word wouldn't get around. And you know how word spreads on campuses.

So it's back here, to this pseudo-anonymous shelter where knitting is not something that could make me the subject of mockery. It isn't perfect, but it works well enough.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Carry that weight

Sunday delivered a noticeable bump up in the temperature--in other words, it hit the 60s--and thus ushered in what truly merits being called spring. The sun was out. No justification was needed for those who wished to wear shorts The furnace could be turned off.

In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of shaking off the dust, rust, and other things accumulated from being cooped up. For the first time in the season I donned a pair of shorts when going for a walk around the neighborhood. I'm recommitting myself to eating well and exercising, two things that basically went down the tubes during the late fall and winter. I regained some weight--not a lot but enough to be obvious and enough that I don't want to carry.

I've quickly been reminded of the folly of those bad habits. The aches, oh, the aches after overdoing it on the nearby middle school track. Here's a bright idea: let's see how short of a distance I can run. (The answer: a quarter of a mile before the body shouts back in great protest. At least I was wise enough to listen and walk the rest of a few miles.) After a few consecutive days of exercise the majority of the soreness has dissipated. My memory also goes for a jog and is refreshed regarding the mental clarity a good walk or run produces.

Reestablishing habitual exercise has been relatively easy, albeit with its pains, but the dietary aspect requires stronger discipline. It's not overeating, which I don't think has ever been a problem for me; it's eating the proper things. When I was a kid and in college I could get away with eating less well--I won't say poorly--because of the regular physical activity I got. Over a number of post-college years of eating on the run and not exercising--a common problem for time-strapped people in this go-go-go age--it catches up with you.

More precisely, the dubious dietary regimen becomes tough to shake. Eating well is hard. There are no shortages of convenient but nutritionally suspect options a grocer's aisle or drive-thru away. The healthful stuff takes time to prepare, and when only needing one serving, it can seem distasteful to have all those leftovers to eat for days or wasteful to pitch what can't or won't be consumed before it goes bad.

When changing one's ways, the beginning is a constant fight, which I'm relearning now. The challenge is more mental than physical. If there's one thing I know from past experience, it is not to bring the junk home in the first place. If I don't have it on hand, I can't eat it. I don't deny myself completely, which is a fool's errand, but I work on finding better alternatives and willing myself to use control for how much of it I eat.

So I'm packing my lunches each day and making my dinners, even if it means having the same blasted thing five or six times a week because that's how much I cooked one night. I'm laying off the pop as much as possible, which hasn't been that difficult despite my regular drinking of the stuff in the past.

I do feel better and have noticed what I'd like to believe is some minor weight loss in the week in a half that I've attempted to right my ways. I refuse to weigh myself, so this is purely an educated guess. My philosophy about the scales is that they can only be discouraging. If I notice a difference in how things fit or how I feel, that's all the evidence I need.

In the end, it's not really about the weight loss, which I expect I'll be able to do without much trouble once I've been on the right course for awhile. It's about lifestyle change. As with anything worth doing, it takes determination and effort to succeed. The initial steps have been taken on the long path. Now I just needed to keep picking up my feet and going the next pace forward again and again.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A man, a plan, a baby hat

Knitted Newborn Hat

Yarn: Dark Horse Yarns-Fantasy (50% nylon, 50% acrylic; worsted weight)
Colors: 31 and 33 (baby pink and dark rose)
Needles: US 8 circulars
Stitches: 54

I've now knitted this pattern five times. I've even done it in these exact colors. The differences with this FO are the moss stitch brim and, more importantly to me, no ugly seams or ladders where I split the stitches for magic loop knitting. Is it perfect? No, but it's as close as I've come in five attempts.

A baby doesn't care, of course, but I care. A lot. This will be going to friends who have no idea that I knit, so there was some additional pressure. It should be interesting to learn of their reaction when they get the hat in a couple days.

I needed a quick project like this to give me a tangible result and remind me of things I've forgotten. Now to find something new to add to my repertoire...

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Like riding a bike

A quick knit was what I needed. Since some friends recently had a baby girl, a knitted newborn hat was the easy choice to make.

I made a few of these last year around this time, but it's been months since my last. While you may think that this hat would be a snap for me, never underestimate my ability to become afflicted with stupidity.

For instance, I couldn't remember how to do seed stitch in the round. I did a cursory search for the information but was more interested in knitting than doing a lot of looking. One book said that when knitting in the round, you're always knitting on the right side. By that reasoning I should k1, p1 each round, but after the first two rounds I wasn't convinced I was doing the right thing. Instead I ended up following the instructions I found for moss stitch. Good enough.

I smartened up once it came to doing two rounds in garter stitch. That felt like a small victory. All this tells me that if/when I resume knitting socks, I'll need to relearn everything. None of last summer's adventures and failures probably took root.

I have the hat about half finished. I put it down to watch the NCAA Tournament championship more closely. Although I'd already wrapped up titles in the pools in which I participated--darn, only one for money!--I was hoping Kansas would win to complete my nearly flawless Final Four round. (I missed with putting Xavier in UCLA's spot but hit both teams in the final and correctly predicted the winner.) Still, since it didn't make any difference, I was also pulling for Memphis. Tough way for the Tigers to lose. Me, I'll revel in my prognosticating glory and remember that it's not likely to happen again soon.

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

You're the inspiration

Blog entries in Google Reader left to read: zero. Inspiration level: off the charts.

I'm caught up, finally, after falling behind in my reading of nearly two months of posts. I kept up with the time-sensitive stuff--mostly sports news and such--but lagged in reading the regular writings of those sharing thoughts, activities, and more from their daily lives. I feel ashamed about this since blogs kept by friends were among those that went unread during this time. In racking up dozens of unread items it was as though I was ignoring those people, even if they were none the wiser.

If ever there was a good excuse to stay on top of all the blog entries, it was the reminder of how these bloggers inspire me. (Many can be found in my sidebar links.) It may not seem like much--stray musings about small things, photos of one's corner of the world, knitting project details--but these glimpses into the interior and exterior lives of the writers are precious all the same. Finding commonalities with those near and far and discovering different ways of thinking about and seeing things is a privilege that these writers offer. How can that not be treasured or inspiring?

To share something of yourself with others is one of the greatest gifts available to everyone. Ideally the blogger delivers it on a regular basis. I've been feeling disconnected of late, so catching up with the blogs I read, with the fleeting thoughts and experiences therein that will be lost to history, was a nice way of reconnecting. I know that I go through times when I think what I write can't be of interest to anyone. If it isn't on occasion, that's OK. We're all permitted some clunkers. My hope is that you are able to find some tidbit of inspiration, familiarity, or novelty here from time to time like I get from those of you who maintain blogs.

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Saturday, April 05, 2008


I have been dreadfully behind on reading the blog entries amassing in my Google Reader account. I've been making my way alphabetically through them today and have shrunk the remaining number to 58. That explains why I'm just now getting to the meme Ruth tagged me for quite some time ago. My apologies.

Except I did this meme in two parts last August and, ironically enough, borrowed it from Ruth's site then. Some items weren't on there then, so I'll answer them.

Four places I have been

Since it's an Olympic year, there are ties to the Games in each of these.

-Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California

The site hosted Olympic baseball in 1984., although I was there more than a few years later. Until I settled on the Olympic theme, this slot was filled by Grauman's Chinese Theatre. I saw Space Cowboys but didn't look around at the handprints, footprints, and such because my brother and I had just come from a tour at Paramount Studios and then took off to get to the ballgame in time.

-Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, GA

One of my brothers lived in the Atlanta area for awhile, so this part of downtown was a natural spot to visit. Actually, I've been there on two different occasions, but I don't really have anything to say about it.

-Olympic Spirit Toronto

In 2004 I was in Toronto while the Summer Games were in swing in Athens, Greece. Newly opened was Olympic Spirit Toronto, an interactive tourist spot that allowed visitors to try their hands at some of the winter and summer sports. Truth be told, it was not that great--some of the exhibits didn't quite work--so I'm not surprised to learn that it closed two years later. Eagle-eyed readers might be able to spot the building in the background of the above photo. (The CBC Olympic telecast was being shown in the empty lot across the street from Eaton Centre.)

-Stade olympique in Montréal, Québec

Earlier in that Canadian trip I was in Montréal and took in an Expos game at Olympic Stadium. I'd had some affection for the team and their logo for a long time, so I was really happy to be able to see them play at home before they moved to Washington, D.C. the following year.

Maybe it was the defeated underdog nature of the franchise at that point in time or the loud but exceptionally small collection of fans, but the ballpark had a lot of charm despite the funereal atmosphere. The concourses were empty, and the plastic seats seemed pretty flimsy for a pro stadium. Nevertheless, it was one of the most enjoyable baseball games I've ever attended. The Expos won on a bases loaded walk with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

Four places I would rather be right now

-The NCAA Tournament Final Four in San Antonio, TX

It would be all the sweeter since the outcomes of tonight's games mean I win the pool!

-In Cincinnati for the Reds weekend series against the Phillies

Man, I really want to go down there for a game.

-Somewhere warmer and sunnier.

The sun was out today, and did it ever make a difference in my mood. I'm beginning to realize how much time I spend in dreary places. My office and the building it is in provide almost no views of the outside during the day. (The windows are in the faculty offices.) Then there are the darkened movie theaters. The gray, dreary winter on top of all this doesn't help.


I don't have a fourth answer. I've never been to Europe but would like to go eventually, so it'll suffice for this purpose.

Four things I am looking forward to this year

-Eliminating the remainder of my debt.

See ya, college loan. It'll be wonderful not to owe anyone anything.

-Getting an HDTV.

I've wanted one for years. Soon.

-Getting into shape again.

It's time to get out of the bad habits I returned to in the winter.

-Returning to Roger Ebert's Film Festival.

I've been attending since 2001. Although sleep can sometimes be in short supply, it's a fun event that is almost like a reunion now. Plus, it's a nice break early in the academic quarter.

Four things I say regularly

-I recommend/don't recommend (insert movie name) with a/an (insert letter grade).

It's the standard outro for each review we do on the show.

-Kind of

Well, who doesn't?

-I don't know.

Kind of like I'm saying right now.

Four people I think will respond

If they haven't done it before...

Feel free to use any of the categories I answered in earlier posts tied to this meme too.

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Friday, April 04, 2008


Well, it happens periodically. I've got nothing, so I throw out a desperate request for topics to put in reserve. Have a question for the secret knitter? Ask it in the comments. I'll use the questions for days like this.

Yes, this is a lame way to keep the daily blogging going, but I can't think of anything quick to write about today. This is what begging looks like.

Also, do me a favor and cheer on Kansas and Memphis in Saturday's NCAA Tournament games. I can win the pool if both teams advance to the final. It's been ages since I've claimed the title (and the cash) in one of these.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

State of the blog

Are you wondering if this is a knitting blog any longer? If you came across it this past month, you'd probably be inclined to think it isn't. In fact, my March progress report and a perusal of recurring topics would support that observation. FO tally: one. Entries about my hometown: three long ones.

The truth of the matter is that I've been very, very busy--aren't we all?--and finding time to knit has been difficult. I've not lost my love for knitting, just some of the hours for it. I suppose that is only natural considering how ridiculously committed I was at the start. Then again, at that time my knitting had two major motivations I don't have at present. I was knitting against a deadline, which isn't a factor now, and I was knitting as a means to maintaining some measure of stress reduction.

Now, I can't say that I lack stress that needs reduced, but it's significantly different than what drove me to knit then. If you recall, I couldn't get any rest at home because of the other people in my apartment building, and the future of my place of work was in question to varying degrees. I'm am happy to say that when I moved at the end of last May, I left behind the living arrangement stresses. Work seems to have sorted itself out that the only concern is keeping up with it. In other words, I am not the wreck that I felt like I was when I began. I enjoy knitting, but I don't need it as desperately as I did when I began.

That's not solely the reason for blogging diversions into more personal background entries that have filled these pages of late. I've been knitting projects that can't be finished as quickly as the garter stitch scarves or dishcloths. It's no wonder I have less to write about knitting-wise. Plus, I've attained a basic level of competence that means I don't have the mistakes to supply my daily posting needs.

I acknowledge that I probably need to push myself to knit new things and learn new techniques, which will help get me back on topic more regularly, and I hope to do so as life settles down. (I won't say when it settles down. Who knows when that could be?) In the meantime, thanks as always for reading. I'll try to keep another one of these posts a few months from now. :)


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Talk like that

During the summer after my freshman year of college I temped at a police station. The data entry job required putting information from police reports into the computer system. The bulk of the work was transcribing the dictated reports on miniature cassettes. I was filling in for a woman who was having carpal tunnel surgery, if that gives you any idea how much time I spent tapping away at the keyboard.

I got a lot of practice listening to these tapes and typing everything they said, even if some of it was pretty unintelligible since the detectives would often record their reports while eating. I pulled this old skill out of my bag of tricks today because I needed to transcribe the seventeen-minute interview I did with a film director last week. (The transcript is posted at the usual place if you're interested.)

What jumped out at me was listening--I mean really listening--to how he and I talk and how those words didn't always look right in print. Sentences drop off for no good reason or run on and on and on. "Just" and "kind of" are liberally sprinkled throughout the conversation despite the words not being intended to express exclusivity and partial commitment. Everything was perfectly understandable while we talked, but an unaltered transcript would, in some places, be slightly misleading to the reader, not to mention a bit ragged. Without hearing the inflection, "kind of" could denote something different than what was meant.

Is it no wonder then that people misunderstand each other all the time? Hearing or reading what gets said does not equate to comprehension or proper interpretation even when no attempts at deception are made. It seems so easy. These are the words, which have these meanings. Too often it isn't enough.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Ingmar Bergman's Dance Party

The last two months have been pretty good in the small live concert department: Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire, St. Vincent, and, tonight, Jens Lekman. That's an impressive list of indie acts in such a short time period. Never mind that I still have The New Pornographers show next week and saw Wilco, Feist, and Spoon in the last three months of 2007. I'm being spoiled rotten after a long dry spell of live pop and rock and roll.

Opening for Lekman was a fellow Swede performing as The Honeydrips. I half wondered if this wasn't some kind of April Fool's Day gag as the guy placed a guitar over his shoulders and sang along to the prerecorded tracks on his Apple laptop. He did not, however, play the guitar. (The funniest part of his set was when he said he wouldn't be needing the instrument for the next song and took the guitar off.) His set was fine, but it seems beside the point to perform live if all of the music is on a hard drive.

Lekman took the stage with a Swedish bass player, drummer, and DJ and an American violinist and cellist. (The band is all-female, except for the DJ.) Everyone was dressed similarly in gray and wore keys on chains around their necks. Who knows why, but the minimalist effect transported them out of time (or out of the pages of an IKEA catalog). The same goes for the music, which is at once retro and modern. Lekman uses samples while he sings like an old crooner and his music recalls classic R&B and disco, among other styles.

While Lekman's brand of bittersweet Scandinavian pop has grooves, the impassive faces in the band as they moved rigidly to the music seemed like something parodying Swedish cinema or culture. They loosened up some by the end, but you know, the Germanic stiffness was endearing and *cough* familiar.

Lekman employs a generous amount of humor in the little scenes in his songs, in part to dampen the twee nature. It too has the deadpan quality that appeals a lot to me. He's a fine storyteller, as he demonstrates here in his commentary and lyrics to "A Postcard to Nina". He provided more background information about the song than he does in the linked performance clip, and it really helped flesh out one of the finest tracks on his album Night Falls Over Kortedala.

The concert was a fine way to unwind from two hectic days at the beginning of the academic quarter. Apropos of nothing other than it was posted today and I need something to help wrap this entry, check out Lekman's interview at The AV Club.

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